Why “eating cement” is NOT OK anymore!

It’s #SelfCareSeptember Month here at Triforce so in keeping with the theme of RUOK? day and our very personal FB posts of our own mental health journeys I wanted to touch on the old school workplace attitudes tradesman have of “suck it up”, “eat some cement” and “harden up”.

n the tradie world there is a very long, ingrained belief that the old “drink a cup of concrete” and “harden up” approach is the very best and only way to handle the very real struggles of life’s misgivings, stress and fortunes. However, these practices are old fashioned and very out of sync with modern day expectations. It’s true most of us Tradies are pretty resilient by nature, we kind of have to be with the enormous amount of physical labour we do, but we are not superheroes who can stay resilient forever. Basically in the modern day these old fashioned attitudes need to change or your business will sink!

So as a tradie boss, how do you balance your own and your teams mental health and wellbeing? on top of all the financial pressures and everyday stressors that comes with running a productive profitable trade business?

It’s important to take a step back and consider the culture you are building in your workplace. Are you ok yourself? Your employees will feel the brunt of your emotion no matter how well you think you are hiding them. Trust me, they won’t stay loyal and stick around for long if you are no longer yourself.

So, maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror, admit that stress has maybe gotten the better of you, and get some help. Have you bitten off more than you can chew too quickly? There is no shame in stepping “backwards” in order to step forwards. You will be more successful in the long run, rather than just keeping your head above water everyday.

Once you work on yourself you can then build a more positive team culture by:

1. Forgetting what you learnt from your old boss!

We learnt a lot from our very first boss as an apprentice. Even though we may not have agreed with their methods of teaching or how they did things, it’s the first and only point of reference we had. But guess what, times have changed! I this more modern society younger tradesman have very different expectations from their leaders.

It can be really easy for us to fall back on the “old school” way of leadership but being stuck in this practice is narrow minded. The younger generations will easily and more readily leave jobs, so it’s time to come to the party and provide them with what they want:

  • More training opportunities to enhance and increase skills
  • Leaders who will provide and seek feedback – everyone wants to know if they are doing a good job not just always hearing the negative qualities
  • More workplace flexibility for self-care, burnout prevention, family life.
  • Guidance and inspiration to achieve and work not constant direction
  • A non-judgemental environment where struggles are noted and supported

Communication plays a big part in connecting with employees and creating an enjoyable workspace for everyone. Not only that awards, legislation and workplace policies are all in place to protect employees from feeling threatened and mistreated. Would you want someone constantly breathing down your neck? Micro-managing your every move? Calling you names? Telling you to harden up? It only leads to mistakes, suck days and mental health issues – which ultimately costs money and maybe even a top employee.

2. Building Trust

Back in day time moved at slower pace, there was less technology, internet was not as accessible as it is today (ahhh dial up) and there was a little more stability in general. In the modern world things are developing and changing every second. In particular forever changing technology, social media, internet and the world’s environment in general. Just look at what has happened this year! Has your leadership skills adapted to the change?

A tradies job is a lot more than organising the days schedule, telling your team what to do, when to do it, where to go and how to get it done. You need to also build trusting relationships with them and bond at an authentic and meaningful level – while keeping those professional boundaries intact. Do you even know what your tradesman think of you?

Are you a person at work? or a money hungry robot? or an angry controlling fiend? or going at such a fast pace all the time that you just never stop and have a good non-work related chat with your team members?

Do you have “development days” where you and the team can just go out and have some fun together? Those chats and personable authentic work relationships can lead to increased work productivity and wellbeing. When people enjoy working with you they stay – don’t lose sight of the person “you used to be before you had a business”. People want fun and relaxed as well as that rigid scheduling and occasional kick up the butt when required.

3. Being the boss people want to work for

My goodness it’s hard work trying to attract and SECURE excellent tradesman! You want to be the boss that people want to keep working for. Although we are legally obligated to protect the mental and physical health of our employees, you are the one that gets to set the narrative to your business. Will it be one that is condescending and harsh, or will it be supportive and authentic?

Our choices will ultimately decide how long a team member will work for you. People who are struggling with a task or mental health are not “soft”, they don’t need to “harden up, drink some concrete”, they need guidance and support. You are also not “soft” if you yourself are struggling. Everyone is not ok at some point in their lives. It’s ok to not be ok – so go on ask the questions RUOK?


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